GLASGOW rugby’s chief inspiration in modern times, Alastair Kellock, has signed a contract extension that will see him finish his playing days with his home city club and then embark on a new career developing rugby in the west of Scotland.
There was some irony in the fact that Kellock’s new deal was announced yesterday, on the eve of the inter-city battle between the club he has captained for the past seven seasons and the one with which he started his professional career. The 31-year-old had already won ten caps for Scotland before switching across to Glasgow, where he was signed as a key second row but also a captain in the making.
The 6ft 8in forward, from Bishopbriggs, was inspired to make rugby his career by a late uncle, has become a central player for Glasgow and Scotland, despite not commanding a regular starting berth in the national side, and is one of the most respected Scottish players across the UK and Europe.
As such, he has had interest from clubs abroad but the SRU have also spoken to him about following the lead provided by Chris Paterson, a similarly universally-popular character who has become an ambassador for both the SRU and RBS. Kellock has agreed a new deal to 2015 and, provided he does not wish, nor Glasgow want him to prolong his playing career at that stage, he will move into a new role helping to inspire the next generation of rugby players.
However, he was quick to state that knowing that he will likely retire in two years’ time will only fuel his desire to bring success back to Glasgow.
“It’s a privilege to play for Glasgow Warriors and I’m honoured to be captain of this club,” he said. “Over the next three or four years I have one goal and that’s to help this club win silverware. There is a strong squad and work ethic here and I want to be at the forefront of the push for success.
“I’m still keen to develop as a player and learn from the coaches at Glasgow, and I’m still working hard at my game, trying to improve, and I have more to give to the Warriors. We have been shaping up over the last two or three seasons to do something special for the game in Scotland and compete with the best teams in Europe.
“Winning a trophy against these sides is something I desperately want to happen for the game of rugby in Glasgow.”
Dubbed “Mr Glasgow Warriors” by supporters, Kellock has made more than 100 league and cup appearances and was the choice as captain for the Magners League Dream team two seasons ago. In 47 Test appearances, he has claimed the scalps of England, France, Ireland and Australia, home and away, among others, and was named Scotland’s captain for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Moments like that have also brought their tough times, with the lock being dropped as he battled against the challenges of players such as Scott Murray, Nathan Hines, Scott MacLeod, Jason White, Jim Hamilton and Richie Gray, but his attitude in always bouncing back and working to improve his weaknesses is at the heart of his popularity, among players, supporters and coaches.
Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend paid tribute to Kellock’s commitment to the Glasgow cause but insisted that the contract offer was not made as a reward for his past efforts, but purely on what Townsend hopes the second row can provide in the two years to come. “Alastair embodies what the Warriors are all about and he will be one of the key drivers of our success in the years to come,” he said.
“Al is an outstanding leader and ambassador for the club, but it’s his on-field performances that have earned him the reward of this contract extension.
“He is one of the best lineout forwards in the game right now and has been a major part of our strong scrummaging displays this year.
“Like any player in our squad there are areas he needs to keep working on to improve but I’ve been impressed with his low tackling and ball-carrying this season. I’m delighted he has committed his future to the club.”
Kellock has also worked hard off the field to develop his own opportunities after rugby and to encourage team-mates with links created with businesses. He has remained close to his first club, Allan Glen’s, and is currently their Director of Rugby. He is also a patron of Asthma UK and spends much of his spare time educating young sufferers about how he has overcome asthma to reach the pinnacle in rugby.